Optimizing Magnetic Lines in SolidWorks 2012

Ricky Huynh

Since I’ve been able to get my hands on 3DVIA Composer, I’ve noticed two changes in my life. The first change happens when I purchase any product that requires assembly. More often than not, the accompanying documentation is difficult to understand, and illustrations can be utterly misleading. Knowing the quality documentation that 3DVIA Composer can produce has completely spoiled me, and now when I’m presented with anything less I find myself cursing in frustration. This was never more evident than in the past holiday season… but that's another story.

The other change in my life is that using 3DVIA Composer encouraged me to look at problems in a different light by introducing me to different tools. As you probably know, 3DVIA Composer has different end goals, and for that reason, different toolsets to accomplish those goals. One such tool I encountered in 3DVIA Composer is known as “magnetic lines”.

Magnetic lines are a dream! This tool makes aligning balloons a breeze, and I immediately began to ponder when this functionality would be brought into SolidWorks. Sitting around waiting for SolidWorks’ development team to read my mind rarely works, so I voted on an enhancement request. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one that wanted this because magnetic lines are now available starting in SolidWorks 2012.

With the magnetic lines functionality, you now have a flexible and convenient way to align balloons. Don’t take it from me though – there’s a quick way to become familiar with this new functionality. In the SolidWorks “What’s New” tutorial set, you’ll find 4 short tutorials that pertain to magnetic lines. To get to these tutorials in SolidWorks, go to the Help menu > SolidWorks tutorials, then in the tutorial window, select “What’s New Examples”:  


I think you'll find that these examples are very intuitive, so there is not much for me to add.  It should be noted that when auto ballooning you will find the option to automatically insert magnetic lines.

The one thing that might prove to be somewhat difficult is uncrossing leaders after adjusting the location of a magnetic line. This next drawing is a mess!

The best way to clear up an issue like the one above is to approach the problem on two fronts. First, ensure that when using the auto balloon method, the layout selected is as close to where the magnetic line will be placed. In this case, a ‘Top’ or ‘Left’ layout would probably work best. After that, while still in the auto balloon property manager, sequence the items to your liking (new to 2012). Once that is completed you may still need some small adjustments or some manual item renumbering, but in the end your balloons can look as amazing as this:  


Magnetic lines are just one of the added enhancements in SolidWorks 2012 that make life a little bit easier.  One of my other favorites is Command Search - a great new feature that Christopher Ma talks about in Tricks for Command Search in SolidWorks 2012.

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